Wooden toys have made a comeback in a big way as they are better than plastic ones for the environment and your child’s safety.
Wooden toys are well-made on the whole, rarely come with pieces that could easily be broken by a child and even adults would find them difficult to break. This means that on the whole, they’re a much safer go-to for a child’s toy, especially if the little one is under the age of five years.
By purchasing a wooden toy that’s sustainably made, you’re playing a small part in reducing the amount of plastic waste. So why not reduce, reuse and recycle? Wooden toys are a great way to do your bit for the environment, without even having to do much at all. Many wooden toys can be bought second hand and sanitized, so you’re reusing materials, and then when the toy has had its day - often a few generations down the line - they can be recycled easily as they’re made from natural materials.
Plastic toys, even if they’re made from durable material, have the potential to shatter or if they have a mechanical element, to malfunction - just have a look at all the toys from the 90s that never made it! Whereas wooden toys can withstand children’s energetic playing, however it happens, as they’re quite simply made from stronger materials.
Much like how wooden toys can help children develop their educational skills, they can also help them to fire up their creative thinking and playing habits. Whether it’s a wooden horse and they’re imagining galloping through the forest, aka the back garden, or they’re playing architect extraordinaire with a range of colorful building blocks, simple wooden toys help to fire up kids’ imagination and get them thinking outside the box. Even just stacking blocks one on top of the other can help children to develop their motor skills as they begin to find out how gravity and other forces work against them. This is especially great for children that have just turned one and over.
Although you may find some plastic toys to be cheap, they often don’t last long. Wooden toys are relatively cheap compared to more complicated alternatives, and the product you’ll receive is good value because they’re hard wearing – even with the handling that some babies will put them through – meaning that their value is increased over the long lifetime of the product.
Playing with plastic toys that light up, talk or play music can entertain your child while you are busy. But these types of toys may not help in their development. Children need to be curious and interact with real things. Children develop their brains by interacting with and exploring objects around them.
The combination of a few chemicals found in PVC plastics is what makes plastic toys dangerous for kids and babies. The biggest health risk with these toxins is that they can leach out from the product, especially when babies put the toys in their mouths. Even worse, there are items in the market like teething rings, bath toys, and squeeze toys made using toxic chemicals.
Some of the toxic additives used in plastic toys are:
Phthalates are commonly used in plastic toys to give a soft and squishy feel. These chemicals are endocrine disruptors and can cause an imbalance in hormones. Phthalates not only upset the body’s hormonal balance, but they are also known to stimulate the growth of cancers.
Cadmium is another common chemical found in plastic toys. It is used as a plastic stabilizer which is said to affect normal brain growth and can cause kidney damage.
Lead is used in plastic toys to make it more durable. It is also sometimes used in paint solutions. Lead is known to affect the nervous system and has been linked to hearing loss, decreased IQ and ADHD. Many Chinese toy products have been known to contain lead. If the toy is exposed to high heat, the lead may leach out in the form of dust, which may then be inhaled or ingested by your child.
BPA (Bisphenol A)
BPA (Bisphenol A) is found in plastic toys, sippy cups, plastic bottles, and canned food lining. BPA is considered more of a danger when children put plastic products in their mouths, so the main concern with BPA has been on food and drink products. If your child is continuously chewing on toys, it is best to avoid plastic toys for that stage.
Researchers with NYU Grossman School of Medicine found that some 1-year-olds have up to 20 times more microplastics in their bodies than adults. Furthermore, some of the newborns' stool also contained microplastics.
“If you really look at a 1-year-old baby’s lifestyle, they use lots of plastic materials, such as toys. They put everything in their mouths. Toys are one of the most important sources of microplastic exposure," explains Kurunthachalam Kannan, PhD, a professor in the department of pediatrics at NYU Grossman School of Medicine.
Toys, however, are not the only form of microplastic exposure. The small plastic pieces, which can be about the size of a teaspoon, are found in everything from clothing to furniture and vehicle tires to shampoo bottles.
Protecting Little Ones
It can take a lot of time and expense to purchase items that can minimize kids' exposure to plastics. "The most important thing you can do is try to limit how much plastic you bring into your home. That’s a tall order. It's hard to avoid," Lewis acknowledges.
Polyester, nylon, and synthetic fibers contain plastic. Try to wear clothing items that you have that aren't made of plastic, like cotton and linen. Avoid microwaving plastic bowls or cups. The heat can release harmful chemicals from the plastic into your food and drinks. Using microwave-safe porcelain or other microwave-safe materials is a better option.
Use containers for food that aren’t made of plastic. Grabbing a glass bowl for your baby's food can help limit exposure to plastics.